The Official Journal of the Ensign Trust, London

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THE ENSIGN MESSAGE

SHOULD A CHRISTIAN GO TO WAR?

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A GREAT problem confronting the churches in general, as well as many, Christians personally, is the question:What must be our attitude…to armaments?

Now that the horrors  of  the Atom  and  Hydrogen bombs are being increasingly impressed on the minds and imaginations of the people, more and more voices are calling upon the churches to define their attitude to the subject. It seems that in many religious circles the opposition to armed defence is stiffening.

Yet it is a remarkable fact that during the German occupation of  Europe  no  such  feeling  existed. And  it is important  that  we  should  remember  this  fact  and try to discover the reason. I feel quite sure that during  the war there was scarcely a soul in occupied Holland who was kept awake by a troubled conscience when Churchill declared that Britain, at  the  cost  of  blood  and sweat and tears, would continue the fight until Europe was delivered from the satanic power of Hitler, nor when Americans, British and Russians, as well as many of our own  brave  young  men, gave  their  lives for  this  sublime  purpose.

But, if they did right to oppose and overcome this abomination at the cost of the greatest sacrifice, why should it be wrong and un-Christian if we make ready to do the same in the event of a Russian attack?

And, if such preparation is really in opposition to Christian principles, We should not be allowed to celebrate a Day of Thanksgiving in May in remembrance of our deliverance.We should rather proclaim a day of repentance because we and our allies were led astray and committed the sin of taking up arms in defence of ourselves against our enemies.

To oppose or not to oppose?

It seems to me that people so often express an opinion which is fundamentally illogical, without taking the trouble, or having the courage, to examine the matter and, consider all its consequences.

What do those who oppose armaments  intend  to do if one of these days Russia should start invading our country? Stand by with folded arms silently watching our girls and women being violated, or our boys and young men dragged off to concentration camps, and our children being given ideological education? But all the time with the unexpressed hope that the Americans and their allies would in due time deliver us at the cost of their lives?

The Bible says:-

Does one suppose that this is really the right Christian attitude? And is this what the Bible teaches us? As this is really the core of the matter, ‘let us examine it more fully.

The Bible declares especially in the books Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers  and, Deuteronomy, that God  “gave to the people of Israel various laws, and statutes, in order to guide, them in all the different spheres of life­ including the military sphere. In Numbers 1:2-3 we read of the order which  God gave to Moses to take ‘the sum  of all from twenty years old and  upward,  all that are  able to go forth to war  in  Israel’;  and  in Deuteronomy 20 mention is made of all those who for special reasons were not required to go forth to battle. On the other hand it was made quite clear that if Israel would only obey the Lord, and fulfil His mission He would bless their arms and  grant  them victory.

‘Yes. many will say, ‘but that is in the Old Testament, whereas the New Testament has quite a different story to tell.’

I think we should be cautious about such observations : The Bible teaches that God is immutable, from all eternity, the same. The fact that Jesus has given us a deeper insight into the character of God in no way changes this fundamental truth. The God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New Testament. The words of Jesus, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy, the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled’ (Matt. 5:17-18), also show that the laws and statutes given to Israel are still in force – hence, also, the Old Testament statute of national defence.

In the New Testament

The following words of Jesus from the same chapter of Matthew are often used as an argument against resisting an enemy by force of arms; ‘Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you , That ye resist not evil: but whosover shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have the cloak also. . . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.’

Let us now turn to Deuteronomy 19, where in the last verse we find the words quoted by Jesus: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ The preceding verses clearly show what God means by this – ‘So shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear,, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.’ Therefore, it was not an act of vengeance, but a preventive measure which the leaders of Israel were instructed to perform.

We are dealing with what might be called a law of the State. ‘Jesus’ words , however, are addressed to the individual: ‘Do not requite evil with evil.’ To make our meaning quite clear, let us take an example from recent history.

It was without doubt the duty of our Netherland Government to offer armed resistance to the unprovoked German invasion, and therefore also every soldier’s duty to obey orders as efficiently as possible. On the other hand , it was the Christian duty of every Netherlander individually to aid a wounded German and not be filled with feelings of hatred towards the Germans as individuals.

State and Individual

Viewed in this light there is no real contradiction. Only we must take good care neither to confuse nor to identify the duties of the State with those of the individual. Have we therefore a dual morality, one for the State and one  for the individual? Certainly not! As, however, the task of the State is different from that of the individual , so the emphasis must be differently placed. The individual should, above all things, follow the path of mercy; while the actions of the State should be guided by justice, and serve the interests of peace and safety. If the State acted otherwise, chaos would  ensue. And  aggressive  action by the State is just as reprehensible as such action by an individual. In that case the words of Jesus, ‘All that draw the sword shall die by the sword,’ also to the State. History proves the veracity of these words.

Those who advocate a defenceless surrender to unprovoked attack seem completely blind to the fact that Satan is still the ‘prince of this world’, and we most certainly are not bound to render to him either obedience  or submission

We read that Jesus Himself instructed His disciples to provide themselves with the means of defence when He said: ‘He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one’ (Luke 22:35).

The moment, as described in the second chapter of Isaiah, when ‘they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks’ will.. only dawn with the coming rule of Christ on earth. This moment is fixed by God, and any untimely action by us is bound to cause havoc and  distress.

Precaution

Even if it follows from the preceding argument that neither the State nor the individual citizen acts in opposition to the divine laws when defending himself against an aggressive and wicked attack, and when as a matter of precaution he arms himself beforehand against such attack, yet it is of supreme importance that we should avoid putting our trust only, or even foremostly, in our armed forces and those of our allies.

We must never lose sight of the fact that our safety lies not in the strength of our weapons, but in God. A return to Him and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the only Saviour is the first and vital necessity.

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